Updated: Jan 12, 2020
Named after the founding father, in the south east of the Pemigewasset Wilderness, lies North and South Hancock peaks. Popular in the fall for tourists (aka. Leafers, peepers, leaf peepers), the summit is much less crowded than the base. If you plan on using the trailhead in the fall, get there early.
The Hancock loop trail is roughly 9.1 miles, covering about 2,500 feet in elevation gain. This trail is different from many White Mountain trails where instead of watching for rocks most of the way, you are looking for roots.
The first 3.5 is has a relatively small incline (relative to the mountain itself), stay focused and watch your footing. This part takes more of a toll than one would expect, since you are leaning forward watching your footing most of the time.
There are some water ways to cross which can vary with rainfall. One thing I learned on this hike is do not get attached to the trail. Obstacles can arise at any time, what will you do with them?
In early fall, New Hampshire mornings can be chilly. The frost has come and the bugs are gone, but in the peaks, snow storms can always be in the forecast. As you ascend the Whites in the fall, it is best to be prepared for snow. Always.
After no short expenditure of energy, the trees get shorter and the views get better. Direct sunlight becomes your best friend during these cold hikes, and a taunting bully at the same time. Warm sun rays melt the mounds of ice in the trees, and regularly drip or drop on you as you pass. The larger ice chunks hurt a bit so a hood is nice to have.
Travelling up North peak is preferred, since it is easier to ascend the nearly 70% grade. From its overlook you can see into the Pemigewasset Wilderness and across the Kanc to the Osceolas. Take in the view and drink some water, then hit the trail to the south peak.
For the record, all pictures were taken on the same day, on the same trail, on the same mountain. A storm had dropped snow and downed trees all over the trail, a good portion of the loop trail was blocked completely. With some determination and persistence the blowdowns can be ducked, dodged, climbed, or crawled passed.
The south peak offers great views as well (if not greater.) Each peak is wooded and has a small look out to take your breath away. Stop for lunch and drink it all in. Shortly, you will need your focus again for the descent. The south peak has grades under 60%, not as steep as the north trail.
Once you hit the junction, you know it is another 3.5 miles back to the trailhead. It is the same as the challenge in the beginning, but in reverse. If you want a chance to strike two 4,000 foot mountains from your list, consider the Hancocks on your next adventure.